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stop procrastinating

Help Your Child STOP Procrastinating

We are all guilty of that last minute Hail Mary to finalize a report or satisfy a deadline. Even during the times when you are confident you will be ahead of the curve, life happens and best laid plans fail. Teach, and practice, these helpful strategies to avoid procrastination.

Tips to Help Your Child Stop Procrastinating:

  1. Sit down with your child and organize all the work that needs to be completed.Help Your Child Stop Procrastinating Arrange these tasks in an A, B, C manner where A’s are of the utmost priority that need to be achieved right away and B’s and C’s are not as pressing. Once the A’s are completed, then the child can move on to the lesser important items. You can do this on a daily or weekly basis.
  2. Break down tasks on to visual schedule. Add daily tasks to a visual calendar so that the child can see what he is responsible for doing. If an assignment lasts longer than one day to complete, like writing a paper or studying for test, break down this task across several days in smaller time increments. Upon completion of this task, the child can cross off the assignment to garner a sense of satisfaction and have an active status for remaining work.
  3. Check assignment notebook/online database for assignments. Model for your child this essential step prior to engagement in homework. When your child comes home from school, make a habit of sitting down during snack time to discuss the requirements for the day. Encourage collaboration for prioritizing tasks through review of syllabus, assignment notebook, and any information posted on line to get the most comprehensive picture of tasks. This may not just include homework but money for hot lunch, filling out consents for field trips, and keeping track of other important information. These items can all be housed on the big visual schedule.
  4. Open communication. Encourage open communication in a non-punitive forum. Let your child know that he can still receive tablet time, play dates, and movies throughout the week even if they have a lot of work to complete. Scheduling down time and fun can also help to debunk irrational, negative thoughts about having to complete work if the child can see that fun and leisure is being factored in too.

Click here to set-up a routine for homework happiness.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Adjusting to a New School Year With a Child With Autism

The new school year is just around the corner, and with the new school year comes changes for both children and parents. These changes can include new routines, new teachers, new classmates, and possibly a new school. Children with autism thrive on routine, so these changes may be more difficult for them. Below are some strategies to make this adjustment to the new school year go smoothly.

Strategies to Help Your Child with Autism Adjust to the New School Year:

  • Begin the new routine a few weeks or even a month early – This will allow your child to adjust to theHelp Your Child with Autism Adjust to School new bedtime and wake-up routine before the school year begins. Also include any dressing and eating routines that normally occur during the school year.
  • Create a visual schedule for your child to follow – This can help with daily routines such as dressing, eating, and bedtime routines.
  • If your child is going to a new school take a tour of the school and visit all the areas your child will go (classroom, lunch room, gym, bathroom, etc.).
  • Meet the teacher and classroom staff – This will allow your child to get acquainted with all of the people he will be working with during the school year. It also allow the staff to become familiar with the child and for you to ask any questions you may have about the upcoming school year.
  • Share important information with the teacher – Provide notes for the teacher which include any triggers that cause behaviors to occur, along with successful strategies on how to handle these behaviors. Also give a list of items/activities that can be used as reinforcers.
  • Keep open lines of communication between you and the teacher – Let your child’s teacher know from the beginning that you would like to have open communication and that you want to be informed of both issues/concerns as well as successes.
  • Allow for an adjustment period – Everyone takes time to adjust to new things. Allow time for both you and your child to adjust to the new school year, and remember to be patient with your child during his adjustment.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

better bedtime routines

A Better Bedtime Routine

Bedtime.  For many adults, bedtime means it’s finally time to shut down and rest.  How peaceful!  However, if you’re a parent of young ones, the simple statement, “It’s time for bed.” likely carries a very different meaning.  In my experience working with families of children of various ages, it is not uncommon for bedtime to be a time of stress, arguments, and frustration among the entire family.  I write this blog not because I have the clear, simple answer for solving the “bedtime problem”, but to inform you of the importance and benefits of having a bedtime routine.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that I strongly believe that there is no one “best” or “correct” way to do things when it comes to raising children.  Consider the individual needs of your family and children as you read on.  While this is not intended to be a prescriptive, step-by-step “how-to” guide, considering the information below can help you instill healthy sleep habits in your children and ease the transition into bedtime.

Building a Better Bedtime Routine:

  • Yes, you have to go to sleep!better bedtime routines
    • Many individuals have a false understanding of what exactly happens when our bodies go to sleep.  Although we think of sleep as a time to shut off, our body and brains are hard at work during sleep, especially during childhood.  Sleep is a critical activity for healthy brain development beginning at infancy.   As infants grow into children and adolescents, sleep remains an important aspect of growth and development.  According to The National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.”  The experts go on to state, “Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.”
    • Lack of sleep can contribute to increased difficulty problem-solving, controlling emotions, paying attention, learning, and effectively communicating one’s needs.
  • How much sleep is needed?
    • While adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, one-year-olds need roughly 11 to 14 hours, school age children between 9 and 11, and teenagers between 8 and 10. (sleepfoundation.org)
  • OK, so sleep is important. But bedtime is always such a challenge!
    • Have routines- When things are predictable they are less stressful. Having a before-bed routine will reduce stress and promote healthy sleep (falling asleep easily, staying asleep throughout the night, and waking up refreshed).  For some, it may be helpful to have a visual schedule.  Activities like reading a book, brushing teeth, and bathing can be easily depicted through pictures.
    • During the hour before bed, have your child engage in a calming activity. This will help encourage the body’s transition to sleep mode.  Realize that there is no one perfect calming activity for all children.  For some it may be playing with Legos, others it’s drawing, reading, or writing.
    • In continuation of the above bullet point, it is recommended to avoid certain activities before bed. Participating in activities that are stressful or exciting are likely to make the transition into bedtime more difficult.

What do bedtime routines look like in your home?  Do you have other tips to share with readers regarding children’s bedtime routines?  Your comments are welcome below!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

creating a visual schedule

7 Tips For Creating A Visual Schedule

What is a visual schedule?

A schedule consists of main activities to be completed during a particular time frame. A visual schedulecreating a visual schedule uses words or symbols (depending on your child’s level of literacy) to represent activities on his/her schedule. For more information about visual schedules and why you should use them, click here.

7 Tips for Creating Visual Schedule:

  1. Pair symbols with words to increase your child’s understanding of the schedule, as well as to help develop pre-literacy skills (i.e., help your child start to understand that symbols like pictures and groups of graphemes represent concepts).
  2. Vary activities to increase engagement. For example, if you are creating a schedule for after school, make sure there is a change of environments within the schedule (indoor/outdoor) or a shift from adult-directed to child-directed activities, etc.
  3. Post the visual schedule in places where your child can easily view it.
  4. Start simple and be consistent, especially at first. Start with a few activities and help guide your child through the schedule at first. As your child starts to understand routines and activities on the schedule, increase independence by prompting your child to look at the schedule and figure out what comes next/what he/she has to do without your help.
  5. Understand your child’s cognitive, attentional, and energy needs. Arrange activities to meet these needs. For example, if your child is always tired at 3pm, schedule an activity that will allow your child to rest and regain his or her energy.
  6. Let your child make choices. One way to do this is to allow your child to help determine what should be on the schedule. Another way is to provide two choices for a particular block of time.
  7. Review the schedule before your child follows it. This provides an added review of what is going to happen, thereby increasing predictability and independence. Reviewing changes in the schedule before they happen is especially helpful. If you are deviating from the normal sequence of daily activities, your child will be more prepared for the change. Changes in the schedule are also opportunities to expose your child to new concepts and ideas.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

sensory strategies for a happy holiday season

Sensory Strategies for a Happy Holiday Season

Melodious songs fill your rooms, the aroma of scented candles waft through the hallways, oven timers ding from the kitchen and everyone feels a bit overwhelmed by all the preparations being completed in every nook of the house! The holiday season brings joy, excitement and family time. It also brings with it enough sensory stimulation to last you until next December! Whether it be tactile, olfactory or auditory stimulation, the holidays bring with them a copious amount of sensory information. Holidays can be a tough time for children who have sensory processing difficulties. Just remember, like any other time of the year, there are strategies to help with sensory sensitivities during the holidays.

Prepare your child for a holiday party and other family get-togethers with these sensory strategies:

  1. Create a visual schedule. Include the big details of the event, including dressing up for the get together, thesensory strategies for a happy holiday season commute to the event, expected activities and the friends/family that your child will get a chance to play with. A visual schedule is a great way to prepare your child for the types of sensory experiences they are about to have.
  2. Upon arrival to your holiday destination, help orient your child to the new space. Take a little tour of the venue, pointing out the bathroom, a quiet room and a play space. If you are familiar with the venue prior to arrival, make a map of the space and have your child put their favorite stickers on the areas that seem safe!
  3. If your child is has auditory sensitivities provide him with head phones or ear plugs to help dampen the sounds in his environment.
  4. Holiday parties provide adults with a bountiful feast but can leave children with squeamish looks on their faces. Encourage your child to try something new if the opportunity exists; but if the textures and smells seem overwhelming, have her preferred snacks hiding in your purse.
  5. If your child has tactile sensitivities to clothing, allow them to be comfortable. The holidays can be the time to bring out your best party attire, but that doesn’t mean your child needs a skirt filled with tulle or a bow tie. Allow your child to choose his holiday outfit based on preferences and tolerable textures. Those casual clothes may raise eyebrows, but that’s nothing to worry about as long as you know your child feels safe!
  6. If your child is movement-seeking, encourage a movement break as needed. Use gross motor activities like jumping jacks, dancing or toe touches!
  7. Holiday parties can be filled with the smells of candles, cooking and other guests’ perfumes. Allow your child to bring a comforting object from home, whether it be a familiar blanket or stuffed animal that has the scent of home and provides a sense of safety.

Remember that the holidays are a time for fun, for you and your children! Making the environment more sensory-friendly can enhance your child’s fun and create positive and lasting memories!






5 tips to get your child with autism to sleep

5 Helpful Hints to Get Your Child with Autism to Sleep

Children with developmental disabilities and autism are at greater risk of sleep problems (40-80% in comparison to 20% of children without developmental disabilities).  Problems can include all aspects of the sleep process, including trouble falling asleep when needed, waking frequently throughout the night, and waking early in the morning hours.  Given what we know about how sleep impacts our attention, emotional regulation, and socialization, it is that much more imperative that we help our children with developmental disabilities be well rested.

Why do children with developmental disabilities have more problems with sleep?

While speculative at this time, evidence thus far points to the following explanations:5 tips to get your child with autism to sleep

  1. Biological: Children with developmental disabilities show higher rates of circadian rhythm disturbance and lowered levels of melatonin.
  2. Social: children with developmental disabilities struggle with interpreting social cues, including those cues that indicate inform bedtime.
  3. Sensory: children with developmental disabilities exhibit disturbances in sensory processing. Because of this, minor bodily complaints, noise, light, and tactile input can disrupt a good night’s sleep.

If your child with autism or other developmental disabilities struggles to sleep well, the following strategies can help:

  1. Keep a sleep diary to recognize patterns in your child’s sleep. You may discover a precipitating cause or consistent trend causing the difficulties.
  2. Create a visual schedule of the bedtime routine. Knowing the routine and consistently following it can help the child prepare for bedtime.
  3. Have the child engage in calming activities one hour prior to bedtime. Screen time is prohibited due to its stimulating effects and interference with melatonin production.
  4. Provide the necessary sensory input that your child needs. They may require a weighted blanket for deep pressure, sound machine to drown out extraneous noises, or dim lights prior to bedtime to cue the child that sleep is approaching.
  5. Melatonin supplement use has been shown to be helpful in children with developmental disabilities but should always be discussed with your pediatrician and approved by them before beginning any regimen.

Read more about sleep disorders in children here.

Need help with getting your child with autism to sleep? Contact one of our sleep expert specialists.

 

the benefits of a visual schedule

The Benefits of a Visual Schedule for Home and School Success

Do you feel like a broken record when you ask your child to complete a simple task or standard routine? Whether you’re asking your child to fulfill her typical morning routine or planning ahead for the upcoming weekend, try using a visual schedule to outline your expectations.

The benefits of a visual schedule include the following:

Visual schedules make chores or tasks objective instead of subjective. When there is a neutral source promoting expectations for the child, it fosters enhanced independence in the child as well as takes the emotionality out of having to remind, repeat, and get frustrated with the child’s progress. Even though it would seem like second nature to complete standard morning time practices, the visual schedule outlines for the child what comes first, second, last, etc. and provides a checklist to move through. Some parents take pictures of their child completing these tasks (i.e. making their bed, brushing their teeth, packing their bag, eating breakfast) to make this a visually pleasing tool and increase child investment in the process.

Visual schedules make transitions easier. For younger children who thrive with structure and benefit from knowing what is on the agenda for the day, a simple visual schedule can aid in transitions and reduce anxiety about upcoming events. These schedules can be less formal and just require a simple sketch of what is to come. During lazy days or even days with little going on, visual schedules can help to structure unstructured time and provide a variety of outlets in a time-sensitive fashion. For example, on a relaxing Saturday create a schedule with your child that incorporates meal times and provides options for morning “art time” and afternoon “outdoors time”. These schedules create structure with pictures. Instead of writing out art time, draw with crayons, paints, or chalk. Meal time would be indicated with a picture of a sandwich and plate. Drawing these expectations out can facilitate independence for even young kids to stick to the routine and understand the structure through the use of symbols.

These visual schedule help bring structure and independence to all home and school routines.

For more help this school year, watch this Pediatric TV Episode on how to set up a homework station at home.







Sensory Strategies and Other Ideas for Kids with Autism

Sensory strategies are associated with a variety of diagnoses and conditions through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.  These strategies are non-invasive accommodations that can be made in any context, to all daily activities in all environments. Sensory strategies are often referred to as “movement breaks,” or other similar titles, but provide the same suggestions and are truly sensory strategies at their core.

These strategies have been found to be very useful for children with Autism who also have sensory processing challenges:

  • Mother plays with childUtilize a visual schedule throughout the day (both at home and at school).  Visual schedules are often easier to understand for a child with autism, or any young child, as there is a pictorial representation of each activity or time of day.  Using a visual schedule more clearly outlines the expectations that you have for the child and gives him/her a sense of control over their day.  A visual schedule may also be used as a tool to develop a morning and bedtime routine and increase independence in self-care activities, such as brushing teeth and getting dressed.
  • Allowing the child to take a 2-3 minute movement break every 10-15 minutes.  This break should involve intense movement when possible, such as jumping jacks, pushups, jumping on a trampoline, etc.  When intense movement is not appropriate, breaks may involve the student walking to the drinking fountain, getting up to sharpen his/her pencil and/or walking to the bathroom.
  • If an assigned task involves intense academic work, such as testing, lengthy projects or problem-solving assignments the child should be given the opportunity to take a longer break (approximately 10 minutes) to allow time for more intense physical exercise.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

  • Utilize a timer during activities and make sure it is visible to the child.  Timers can be either visual, meaning that there is an area of the clock that becomes shaded and as time elapses the shaded area becomes smaller and smaller however there is no noise associated with it, or auditory, in which there is a digital display and an alarm that sounds when the time has fully elapsed.  Using a timer is especially helpful during preferred activities, such as free-play, as it sets a clear limit for the child regarding how long they will have to participate in this designated activity.  This makes the environment and the activity more predictable and eliminates any element of surprise which is present during verbal warnings such as “2 more minutes,” and should make transitions happen more easily.
  • Along with a timer, providing transition warnings and using transition items will help a child with autism move from one activity to the next.  A transition warning can be used in conjunction with a timer to create more clear expectations surrounding transitioning from one activity to the next.  A transition warning involves setting the timer for how long the child will have until moving on to the next activity, as well as verbally or visually communicating that the transition is approaching.  For example, if a child has 5 minutes of free play prior to a structured task, when I set the timer for 5 minutes I would tell him/her “You have 5 minutes to play and then when the timer beeps it is time to go sit at the table.”  Then when there are 2 minutes remaining on the timer I would follow-up with “Look at the timer, you only have 2 more minutes until table time.”  If a child does not yet understand the concept of time, the visual timer would be the better choice for a timer as you can clearly see the shaded or colored area disappearing.
      • A transition item is a physical thing that the child is allowed to bring from one activity to the next.  If a child was playing with blocks and it was time to go to the table for a writing activity, a transition item could be allowing the child to bring a block with to the table.  Or substitute an item, such as allowing him/her to bring an action figure, small doll or ball with him/her from the block area to the table.  Transition items help stop “tantrums” or the feeling that something is being taken away form the child and make the transition smoother.
  • Provide a toy or item for the child to manipulate during solitary work.  These items are often referred to as “fidgets,” and provide the child with an outlet to release their restlessness.  Rather than continuously moving his/her body, the child can move his/her hands quietly in their lap or on their desk while manipulating the fidget.
These sensory strategies can be implemented in the classroom, at home and in most other settings where a child is expected to be able to sit and attend to a task (church, Sunday school, music lessons, camp, etc.).  Incorporating these strategies into particularly difficult parts of the day can also have an immense positive impact on the child; for example, incorporating physical exercise into transitional periods may lessen the stress that these times put on both the child and the adult.  These sensory strategies are not strict rules to abide by, but are general guidelines to be expanded upon or adapted to fit each child’s individual needs.

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How to Teach your Child with Sensory Processing Difficulties How to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike can be a scary and overwhelming adventure for both the parents and the child involved!  There are many components required for bike riding, such as motor planning, body awareness, trunk control, balance, self-confidence, following directions, safety awareness, timing, and sequencing.  However, one of the best things about bike riding is that the child is typically very motivated and excited to do it, as he sees his friends or other children in the neighborhood doing so already.

SPD Child riding a bike

Below are several strategies on how to get started:

  • Practice lots of balance activities:  balance is a huge part of bike riding; therefore, it is important to strengthen these skills by challenging your child’s ability to maintain various positions including standing on one leg, sustaining yoga poses, walking across balance beams, or kneeling on an unstable surface such as the bosu ball.
  • Incorporate a variety of activities with wheels:  while being able to ride a bike independently might be the ultimate goal, it is beneficial to incorporate other similar skill sets into your child’s play experience.  This will help you and your child to take the emphasis off of the fact that he does not know how to ride a bike and help to focus on the excitement of trying new things (e.g. scooter, skate board, tricycle, roller skates, etc.).  Similarly, your child might really excel at one of these activities, in which this activity can then be used as a confidence booster when the child has already mastered it.
  • Practice inside:  have your child practice simply balancing on the bike/sitting on the bike in a safe environment, such as inside (e.g. basement or playroom/living room if appropriate).  Place large pillows/beanbags next to the bike so the child feels secure, and if he falls, he will crash into the pillows.
  • Involve different family members/friends:  bike riding can be a very complex task; therefore, it can be extremely beneficial to involve different family members/friends to help with the process. Different people have different strategies and ways of motivating and sometimes one strategy will really hit home for your child.  Similarly, then the same parent and child won’t get so frustrated with one another.
  • Visual schedule:  help your child to make a visual schedule/calendar to illustrate when the child will start practicing and what skill he will work on each day (e.g. getting onto bike; peddling with both legs; ride to the corner etc); then the child can put an “x” or a sticker on the chart when he completes a day of practice, or practices a skill etc.  Visual schedules can be motivating for the child, and provide structure.
  • Take the pedals off:  taking the pedals off of the bike helps initially with learning the feel of the bike/balance. Take the bike to a small hill and have the child ride down without the pedals, this provides an introduction to moving and balancing on the bike without needing the coordination to pedal.

Learning a novel activity can be intimidating for a child, as it is a totally new experience and requires a significant amount of following directions and motor planning.  Similarly, teaching  novel activities can be nerve wracking for the parents, especially if it is a skill they have not taught before, like bike riding.  As parents, it is important to keep in mind that every child learns differently and requires different levels of support when learning a new skill.  Make sure to constantly praise your child during this challenging activity, even if it seems like the tiniest accomplishment (e.g. buckling bike helmet independently; putting kickstand down independently).  As always, feel free to talk with an occupational therapist or physical therapist if you need more individualized strategies or have other gross motor concerns for your child.

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